AI-Driven Search: Building Better Experiences and a Need for Blockchain

February 5, 2019

By Nicole Sprenger

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Have you ever wondered what powers the phrase "Okay, Google," or how a search engine knows what you're searching for before you finish typing?

The answer lies in a field of study known for teaching machines to behave intelligently called Artificial Intelligence (AI). Every day, its algorithms analyze our digital footprints to improve searches and deliver results at record speed.

In an era in which smart technology is integrated so heavily into our everyday lives, it's estimated that, collectively, we generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day. This has created a digital ecosystem in which, without advanced methods of understanding big data, we lose the concept of the individual, and the idea of a consumer becomes a mass market.

To provide consumers better experiences at the individual level, AI has enhanced searching in three ways:

  1. Streamlined Customer Service: Companies such as Amazon and Shopify are leveraging AI-driven chatbots to streamline customer communication and create a better experience for individuals. Chatbots can be thought of as a form of conversational AI and are designed to respond to received messages based on the needs of individuals. Because social media and messenger platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp collectively handle 60 billion messages a day, many businesses are turning to chatbots to provide faster response times and more meaningful customer service interactions.
  2. Conversational Keywords: The rise of conversational AI creating a shift in keywords should not come as a surprise given that it helps individuals communicate and search efficiently while using language more closely aligned with natural conversation. Search engines such as Google have supported this shift calling for enhanced SEO strategies that allow for voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa to effectively tap into search engines and rapidly find answers to an individual's questions.
  3. Personalized Experiences: AI-enabled tools such as Atomic Reach can analyze trends and understand what content is going to be the most helpful for a specific audience. Because AI-driven search feeds on data such as text and images, a demand has been created for content to be even more aligned with what consumers want. This helps generate personalized experiences for individuals because for content to perform well, it must be optimized based on their needs.

These examples show just how valuable AI's applications are in search. However, concerns over trust and personal data collection go hand-in-hand with this improved search experience.

Blockchain-based search engines such as YaCy and the newly claimed "Google of Blockchain" Nebulas have caught the attention of a select group of users who are advocating for more privacy control from search engines. Both companies aim to create a decentralized platform that turns public data into private data and fosters openness, collaboration and transparency.

Using search engines that rely on a peer-to-peer network of computers doesn't mean eliminating intelligent systems, because these programs hold great value in helping users find the right information. Because a decentralized approach to searching fosters transparency and offers rewards to a community, more trust can be created between individuals and search engines. This can create a collective database of information that's owned by users so that sharing personal data becomes a choice and intelligent systems are not learning from fabricated information.

Decentralized search models also come with challenges. For example, limiting the amount of public data is testing how we use intelligent systems to better understand the individual, but it is generating new collective discussions around how to measure value on a universal scale without tracking a user's every move.

AI plays an important role in search by providing business with an advanced method of understanding how to create meaningful online experiences for individuals. Coupled with blockchain technology, a more transparent and collaborative environment can be created — one that makes consumer tracking a choice for users. Although we have not yet arrived at a valid decentralized approach to current day searching, we know advancements are being made on credible models. This provides us with the option to help shape the role that both we and our personal data play in the advancement of intelligent systems.

Nicole Sprenger is a marketing lead at ESD, a global consulting-engineering firm. You can email her at NicoleMarieMarketing@gmail.com.



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